From pipe dream to the silver screen, three Brandon filmmakers have managed to shuck the bright lights and the bigger is better mentality with their low budget film titled "Riding North."
Shot with a $0 budget, Steve Langston, Chris Mitchell and Ryan Mitchell admit they had no expectations when they first decided to make a movie about a 2,000 kilometre, 30-day bike tour in one of the most northern and remote areas of Canada.
"It was a crazy trip and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into," Chris Mitchell said.
Today, the crew is eagerly anticipating the film’s debut on the radX — Risk. Adventure. Danger. — network this month after being purchased by a HiFidelity executive at the Gimli Film Festival.
"When we started out Steve didn’t know much about film making and we didn’t know anything about biking, so we were just in way over our heads which is a big reason I think it turned out so well," Mitchell said.
A Crocus Plains graduate, Mitchell pursued his passion of film-making locally, graduating from Assiniboine Community College’s media production program before turning his attention to film school in British Columbia. While the schooling may have laid some of the technical ground work for the movie, Mitchell said no amount of education could have prepared him for the adventure he had embarked on.
"There was a seven-day stretch of unserviced gravel roads where we were pulling water out of creeks and camping and dealing with bears, wild bison and black flies called bulldogs, that took big chunks of flesh out of you."
At one point a herd of bison charged the riders, narrowly missing the bikers on the side of the road. The intense nature of the trip lent itself to the film-making process, Mitchell said, but it also gave him some cause for concern.
"It was kind of sketchy at times," Mitchell said. "I remember sending my wife an email saying if you haven’t heard from me in a few days call the people in Fort Nelson, B.C. and let them know where we are."
If the one-month journey from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Yellowknife, N.W.T., wasn’t taxing enough, the crew had to do it all the while shooting and dumping footage and cleaning and charging gear at the beginning and end of each day.
"Film making alone is a very time consuming process, but when you add bike touring, setting up camp and cooking meals, it was just unheard of how long our days were," said Mitchell, who figures the crew worked up to 18-hours some days.
"If there wasn’t so much daylight I don’t think we would have been able to do it," he added about the tour taking place during the summer solstice when daylight can range between 18 to 23 hours a day in some areas.
While the grind of the process may have taken its toll at times physically on the guys, Mitchell said it was important to maintain a positive attitude to ensure the film didn’t suffer.
"Sometimes all you can control is your attitude and honestly, bike touring, it changed my life," Mitchell said. "It is such a great opportunity for personal growth."
The group now has set its sight on securing a company to distribute the film internationally.
"You don’t expect this to happen," said Langston, who went to school with Mitchell in Brandon. "The fact we could do it with a few people and that industry people feel it’s a good film, makes us feel great. And I think because we did what we thought was cool instead of being constrained by the larger broadcasters and the legacy way of doing things helped."
An experienced rider, Langston has been promoting bike tours across the country for quite some time. The author of two books — "Canada by Bicycle" and "Manitoba by Bicycle" — Langston said the idea of creating a film was a natural fit for the group.
"I combined my love of video and biking," Langston said. "Everyone was really green and we knew we had talent and skill, but we never thought it would get this far to be honest."
The crew expects their second film "Tailwind: Prairie Harvest," a 1,200 km bike tour across the province eating only locally grown food to debut on MTS TV soon.
"Riding North" will play on the radX channel for the next five years. People looking for a sneak peek of the movie can visit ridingnorthmovie.com